As the Gay Rights movement took its inspiration from and stands shoulder to shoulder with the Black Civil Rights movement, Alvin Ailey himself stood at the intersection of both as a Black Gay man. A brilliant dancer and choreographer, Ailey and six other Black modern dancers first performed as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. In the age of Jim Crowe and segregation, they brought their truth to the world.
“From his roots as a slave, the American Negro – sometimes sorrowing, sometimes jubilant but always hopeful – has touched, illuminated, and influenced the most remote preserves of world civilization. I and my dance theater celebrate this trembling beauty.”
– Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey’s seminal masterpiece, “Revelations.” premiered in 1960, three years before MLK’s “March on Washington.” In it Ailey captured the soul of Black America like never before and never since in a transcendent and glorious thirty minutes.
From their website,
“Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.
More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing ‘Revelations’ for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive ‘I Been ’Buked’ to the rousing ‘Wade in the Water’ and the triumphant finale, ‘Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.’”
Ailey’s death in 1989 from AIDS was an immeasurable loss to the Black, Gay, and dance communities, as well as humanity itself. The endure gifts of his choreography and legendary company go on telling the stories of African Americans through dance and filling the souls of all who see them with joy and hope.
There is immense work to be done in order to achieve racial equity and justice in America; but for today on Juneteenth, we can and should celebrate. To that end, this is Alvin Ailey’s glorious “Revelations.”
That Juneteenth, a celebration of freedom, and Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQ liberation should coincide seems joyfully appropriate. But that the celebration of America’s independence should also follow so closely appears preordained.
What a marvelous celebration it would be, if we would realize we’re united as a nation in our love of freedom and equality for two weeks every year from Juneteenth to June 28th to July 4th.
Read our previous Pride Month 2022 posts